Kampala braces for smart city

Traffic and solar street lights installed on the refurbished Kira Road. PHOTOS | FILE

As Kampala City continues to expand, the need for a better infrastructural network becomes more pertinent.

After decades of lacklustre performance, the city is steadily rising from the ruins of potholed roads, perpetually uncoordinated planning, and meagre revenue collections.

City authorities are racing against time to implement critical physical planning guidelines to ensure coordinated neighbourhoods that befit a city.

High-rise buildings tower across the city suburbs lending the surrounding areas a beautiful scenery. 

Authorities are also in overdrive to upgrade roads to bitumen standards through various partnerships, the latest being the just-concluded Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP) bankrolled by the World Bank.

Some of the roads that have been upgraded under the KIIDP include Makerere Hill, John Babiha (Acacia) Nakawa-Ntinda, Lukuli, Kabusu-Bunamwaya-Lweza, and the Berkley (Bakuli) – Nakulabya-Kasubi stretch along Hoima Road.

However, out of the 2,100kms city road network, only 700kms are paved while the rest is still potholed. 

The signalised junctions include Fairway, four junctions on Makerere Hill Road, three junctions on Kira Road, Bwaise-Mambule junction on Mambule Road, and three junctions on Hoima Road at Berkeley (Bakuli) – Nakulabye section.

The non-motorised transport corridor on Luwum Street in Kampala.

Drainage channels that are currently being upgraded include Lubigi and Nakamiro, with others being lined up.

The Deputy Executive Director of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Mr David Luyimbazi, says the administration has a lot to show as the country celebrates 60 years of independence.

Mr Luyimbazi adds that one of their flagship projects is the upgrade of the city’s road and drainage network.

“We plan to revamp the entire city infrastructure in terms of upgrade and expansion of roads and drainages, improvement of the transport sector and proper structural planning. These problems have bedeviled the city for so long but I am happy to note that we have made great steps in improving the city’s infrastructural development,” he says.

Mr Luyimbazi says the two projects which are being implemented by KCCA include the Greater Kampala Urban Development Programme (GKUDP) and the Kampala City Annuity Roads and Bridge Project (KCARBP).

With a total financing of Shs917b, GKUDP is a five-year project (2022-2027) that seeks to transform Kampala, Wakiso, and Mukono in terms of mobility, accessibility, resilience, employment and slum upgrading and low-cost housing, among others.

Under the KCARBP, which is being bankrolled by the UK government at $250m (Shs949.2b) at least 270km of roads will be upgraded and four flyover bridges for pedestrians and one key bridge for vehicles will be constructed.

Authorities are also planning to roll out more non-motorised transport corridors across the city to ease mobility for both pedestrians and cyclists.

In 2019, KCCA unveiled a 2km non-motorised transport corridor as a pilot project stretching from Entebbe Road via Luwum Street down to Namirembe Road and Berkeley (Bakuli) junction.

Technocrats argue that with the swelling city population where the majority of people walk to work, more non-motorised transport corridors across the five city divisions need to be constructed.

However, the city continues to grapple with budget constraints which have left several infrastructural projects grounded.

KCCA currently operates on a shoestring budget of Shs300b annually which technocrats say is not sufficient to solve the city’s critical challenges.

The authority unveiled an ambitious five-year strategic plan in 2020 (2020-2025) to turn around the fortunes of the city.

However, the plan has remained on the shelf due to lack of money to implement it. KCCA needs at least Shs7.5 trillion to roll it out.

Besides, the transport and street lighting master plans which were unveiled about four years ago have remained on paper to date due to inadequate funding.

Under the five-year strategic plan, KCCA seeks to roll out the bus transit system, and cable cars to decongest the city, and also roll out a smart parking system where users in the city can install street parking apps on their mobile phones to ascertain where there is parking space.

The plan also has a component of streamlining boda bodas and taxis, and the establishment of parking lots and terminals to ensure a safe and environment-friendly transport system.

The other component under the strategic plan is the development of slums into modern neighbourhoods like high-rise apartments to accommodate slum dwellers.

“We are lobbying the government to increase our budget so that we can accomplish the already planned infrastructure projects. We are doing our best to improve the city despite the small resource envelope and the good news is that the government has promised to address our financial challenges. We would like to give the city a new outlook and make it both attractive and livable,” Mr Luyimbazi says.

Kampala deputy Lord Mayor Doreen Nyanjura attributes the city’s slow development to the government’s lukewarm financial support, which she says is too little.

Ms Nyanjura argues that the city should be allocated at least one percent of the overall national budget since the city contributes about 60 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Funding has been our biggest challenge as an authority but the government isn’t bothered at all and that is why you see that we have failed to implement some of our critical infrastructural projects. At 60 years, the country’s capital city is still lagging in terms of infrastructural development. We need to do better as a city if we are to match other cities in the region,” she says.

Ms Nyanjura says their efforts as politicians to reorganise the city through legislation have been frustrated by the government.

“We have come up with ordinances on issues like transport, markets, and transport in vain. Our approach has always been to have an inclusive development which doesn’t violate the rights of the city dwellers because once we don’t plan for such people then they will remain a challenge to the city,” she says.

For the city to realise development, Ms Nyanjura says, the government should give it a priority in terms of funding to facilitate the stalled infrastructure projects.